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Ten the Hard Way: Introducing the Houston Music Hall of Fame

In honor of the 25th Annual Houston Press Music Awards, we present the Houston Music Hall of Fame.

But it was Sample's go-for-broke move to Los Angeles in 1960 that led to worldwide fame. After a decade of hard bebop-style playing and albums, the Jazz Crusaders dropped the "Jazz" part of their name and dropped Pass the Plate in 1971, forever altering jazz and popular music. Suddenly, from Zaire to New York City to Paris, the world was the Crusaders' oyster.

Yet each member of the band had other goals and career aspirations, and they began to work as L.A. session musicians. For his part, Sample played and recorded with an amazingly diverse list of performers, from Joni Mitchell to Diana Ross, Tina Turner to Willie Nelson.

Today, besides his busy touring and teaching schedule, Sample is pushing forward with a labor of love — an attempt to stage a theatrical musical based on the life of Sister Henriette DeLille, a New Orleans nun currently being considered for canonization by the Vatican as the first black female saint. WMS

GENE WATSON

Working in a Houston body shop by day and singing in honky-tonks at night, Gene Watson became an overnight country-music sensation in 1975. After a decade of independent releases, Capitol Records picked up his independently recorded album Love in the Hot Afternoon, its title track a sultry R-rated ballad that quickly went to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. With its bluesy bow to New Orleans and quite specific postcoital lyrics, there had never been a country music hit that sounded like it. Women swooned and men were glad they did.

But not only was Watson on fire, Houston itself was the epicenter of live country music during this period, with a dozen clubs that could hold more than 1,000 boot-scooters apiece. With heavy support from Houston radio stations, Watson reeled off a string of singular late-'70s and early-'80s hits — "Paper Rosie," "Where Love Begins," "Should I Go Home (or Should I Go Crazy)," "Nothing Sure Looked Good on You" and signature song "Farewell Party" — that kept him constantly on the country charts. All told, he's sent six songs to No. 1 and 23 into the Top 10 among his 75 charting singles. His "Fourteen Carat Mind" remains a must-play standard for hundreds of cover bands.

In spite of all his success, Watson never moved to Nashville. As he approaches 70, he prefers to reside in Humble, where he owns a body shop. His vocal prowess is intact, as evidenced by his stellar 2009 album A Taste of the Truth and his 2011 duets album with Rhonda Vincent, Your Money and My Good Looks. Watson remains as active as ever, playing everything from county fairs in North Dakota to country-music festivals in Ireland, where he is a huge draw.

With the recent passing of George Jones, it is actually possible to say — with no disrespect to Ray Price, Willie Nelson or Johnny Bush — that Watson, known in the industry as "The Singer's Singer," is now the greatest pure vocalist left among working, Auto-Tune-free country singers. WMS

ZZ TOP

ZZ Top stands for Houston. The band's ad for the city's tourism bureau occasionally airs on local TV back-to-back with KHOU's spot that brags how the station "stands for Houston." It's easy to get the two mixed up, but really, it's no contest.

Almost perfectly, ZZ Top mirrors Houston's four-decade ascent from bluesy relative backwater to global force, with an estimated 50 million worldwide album sales. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted the trio in 2004 (ex-labelmate Keith Richards gave the speech), dubs them "Texas's foremost cultural ambassadors." The Texas Legislature beat the Hall to it by almost two decades, proclaiming ZZ Top "Official Heroes for the State of Texas" in 1986.

But for a band that once brought live armadillos onstage for the "Worldwide Texas" tour, they're no bearded cartoon. All the flashy duds, fuzzy guitars, hot rods and leggy video models wouldn't have endured without a musical foundation of pure Texas granite.

Billy Gibbons folds the blues mojo of his hero Lightnin' Hopkins into a gearhead's aptitude for technology. Dusty Hill attacks his bass strings like Motown great James Jamerson used to and yelps lead on some of ZZ's biggest party-rockers like "Tush." Drummer Frank Beard plays as intricately as any jazzman, behind a kit that looks as if it was designed by NASA. Ever upgrading, last year the band reworked DJ DMD, Fat Pat and Lil Keke's "25 Lighters" (a favorite of the late DJ Screw) into "I Gotsta Get Paid," the single that helped latest album La Futura give them their highest-ever debut on the Billboard album charts.

And then, at Bonnaroo this past June, ZZ Top followed top-billed headliner Paul McCartney with a two-hour set that drew some of the Tennessee festival's best reviews. Precious few bands about to celebrate their 45th anniversary would mark the occasion by touching every part of their catalog in the middle of the night, let alone do it directly after a Beatle. But it's exactly the sort of thing ZZ Top would do. Ah-how-how-how-how. CG

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7 comments
betty7boop
betty7boop

Gene is a favorite of mine and has been for over 40 years..  he has a voice that I can listen to all day and never tire of it.  just wish I could see more of him.  I plan on being in Brenham next week.

AtoneLoc
AtoneLoc

Billy Joe "B. J." Thomas

dustin.kalman
dustin.kalman

So is there going to be a physical hall of fame or just a virtual one?

jsteetle
jsteetle

Y'all must have been hurried? Or worse? How on earth did y'all miss Johnny Guitar Watson, and please- Chris Whitley? Let's face it, there are lots of great and talented musicians from H-Town... But to forget roots....

ltnmerlin
ltnmerlin

Hello,

Well if the Houston Press is creating a Houston Hall of Fame, they should have correct information of those that are being inducted.   La Mafia was formed in 1980, not 1986.  There are albums that were released from 1980.  Please contact them if you want to double check.

massmurdermedia
massmurdermedia

johnny guitar watson

gold star studios

roy head

lightnin' hopkins

pain teens

rap-a-lot records


 
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